Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a circulatory problem where blood flow to the legs and arms is reduced due to narrowed arteries. Due to “atherosclerosis,” when plaque made up of excessive fat, cholesterol, and other substances builds up in the arterial walls, circulation is affected, and the malnourished tissues and organs can gradually lead to the condition called peripheral artery disease (PAD).
You may not experience any symptoms until your arteries are narrowed by more than 60%.
As PAD worsens, the reduced blood flow can eventually result in tissue death (gangrene) and eventual limb amputation.
Once diagnosed, you are likely to start the treatment by seeing your family doctor. Clinicians focus on healing the patients through their observations and analysis. However, they need to take a call on deciding if the patient needs to be referred to a Vascular specialist who specializes in the treatment of PAD and circulation disorders.
Knowing when to refer to a Vascular specialist
Patients with diabetes need to get their feet checked every time during a doctor’s visit and should be checked for discoloration on the foot. Physicians, podiatrists, and endocrinologists can certainly know which patients would benefit from consulting with a PAD specialist.
Following are the major symptoms the needs to be referred to and checked by a vascular specialist-
- Neuropathic pain
Peripheral neuropathy, which occurs when the peripheral nerves located outside of the brain and spinal cord are damaged, can cause weakness, numbness, and pain, mainly in the hands and feet and can affect circulation.
Neuropathy and PAD, both conditions have similar symptoms and share a common risk factor – diabetes.
Intermittent claudication can be the first noticeable symptom of PAD. Pain in your thighs, buttocks, and calf when you walk, that goes away with rest and comes back when you resume activity is referred to as claudication pain. With advanced PAD, the pain worsens and over time it becomes so severe that you no longer be able to walk.
- Critical Limb Ischemia (CLI) or rest pain
CLI is an advanced stage of PAD. Blood flow to the extremities is severely restricted which causes severe pain and even skin sores or ulcers. The condition will not improve on its own and needs comprehensive treatment by a vascular surgeon or specialist.
- Chronic wounds
Nonhealing wounds and ulcers are often seen in patients with diabetes. Those are caused by blockages in the arteries and the result of a loss of sensation.
Combination of PAD and chronic wounds raises the risk of amputation.
Accurate diagnosis matters
PAD and Neuropathy are two different conditions with similar symptoms and different treatments. Hence it is critical to identify if you have PAD, or neuropathy, or both. Doctors at Avis generally recommend those who have diabetes or have been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy to undergo an evaluation of their artery and vein health.
Improved physical activity, weight loss, and diet are found to improve symptoms in mild PAD cases. But advanced PAD requires advanced therapy including balloon angioplasty, and other minimally invasive procedures that can eliminate existing blockages in peripheral arteries and restore normal blood flow.
Consulting an experienced Vascular specialist will help diagnose the diseases in the initial stages, thus helping to treat PAD as well as prevent amputations.
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